“The winter season is when roots and tubers grow.”
I recently heard this from Father after spending time in the garden on a super frosty day. I needed to hear it. It has been one of the most revelatory things I have heard from him in the last 12 months!
I think that in desert times we can often be bewildered by the process we are going through. I have heard a lot about how to position myself in desert times, and that there are two kinds of desert time – the one that the Holy Spirit leads you into – like Jesus into the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry, and the one we lead ourselves into – like the Israelites into their 40 year wander.
This season didn’t feel like either of those deserts. It didn’t feel like any kind of desert really, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing, or why I am living where I am, how I got here or why I was so frogging limited in my activities.
This is the first time Father has spoken about a seasonal ‘desert’; to me at least.
With the seasonal deciduous event of winter; for many trees, shrubs and bushes the colder months are a time for them to draw nutrient from the soil and begin to lay the pathways for growth in the spring.
It is a season for the development of what in biology is called biotic potential. In essence, the flora of the world is pulling back its bow-string ready for its release in spring. Sometimes to us, it can look like the world has died. Leaf litter, the bitterness of deep frost, the die back of many ground covering plants, bulbs and tubers, trees stand skeletal against fog or against a cold or wet landscape.
Here there are some things that still remain green in winter, some to protect themselves and some because of the waxy nature of their leaves – it means that they don’t freeze solid the way many other plants do. Or like my spinach, it seems to have a perverse delight in being frozen solid every morning!
If you speak to gardeners and farmers, winter is the season for preparing the ground. In winter you mulch, lay down compost, aerate the soil, dig in your green manure crop (which is a crop grown for its high nutrition value for the soil, not for eating) and do all kinds of other things that will encourage worms to breed in your vegie patch.
You also make sure all your pruning is done, fences are in good condition, watering systems are fixed, all maintenance is completed and your tools are sharp and carefully ready for the planting of seeds and seedlings as soon as the right weather comes along. In different areas people stock up on straw to keep baby vegies warm and protect from the last few frosts.
Where I live it rains a lot. The soil gets to what is called saturation level, which is when it is so full of water that puddles start to form on top of the ground and you need gumboots just to hang out the washing even after successive fine days. Then overnight the temperature will dip below 0C and the ground will freeze solid. Deep frost like this is a natural aerator and tiller of the soil. It breaks up what has grown hard and allows the soil to breathe.
I have learned that a winter desert season can be difficult to live in, if you don’t know what it is.
You might feel cold and dead. Your ministry or activities may have died back and you may find yourself looking around wondering why all the regular doors and windows you try are closed and cold. There may be a temptation to speak bitter words about things that have happened or are happening. People around you might be very annoyingly pointing out a bunch of things that are raining in your life – these are often blessings that are raining down around you! In the middle of this kind of desert season you may get a job promotion or a financial windfall or your children or grandchildren (or other family) might be experiencing all kinds of breakthrough. Your house may finally sell for an amazing amount of money and you have a chance to buy something better or more suited to your personality or lifestyle. Father may be fulfilling a number of your long travailed prayers or some of the promises that He has given you! HOWEVER, because it’s a winter season, you may not have noticed or have been able to see it because you feel you have been frosted over.
In a winter season there is often no need to put down wells, because God is raining all over you – sometimes all day, every day, for weeks at a time. The choice I have discovered is what side of the soil we will focus on. The top side, or underneath. The top might be affected by frost and frozen solid. However even that frost is accomplishing something. It will make the soil soft, ready for the grass to push through in spring.
If we remember what is happening underneath, that the roots of our life are gathering potential, the roots and tubers are growing and multiplying, coiling the springs, drawing back the bow string, getting ready to shoot forth in the season of our spring, then we will be ready!
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
We can focus on what we are feeding the soil of our lives in these winter seasons! Pile on that compost! What ministry do we need to feed our Spirit, Soul and Body with? Can we ever really over soak ourselves in the Holy Spirit to the point of saturation? I don’t think so, but I’m sure going to try! Is there an issue in your life that hasn’t been attended to yet that this might be the perfect time to deal with? Do you need some maintenance? Has something in your regular routine fallen off the list because your previous season was so jolly busy?
Maybe you can revisit the promises God has given you and see if there are any that He has fulfilled while you weren’t looking….I’m sorry to have to say that I found a couple, because I had stopped reading them regularly. What a testament to the Goodness of God! That we pray for rain, and then when we mistake his rain of blessing for inconvenience he makes it rain more!
Some of my favourite bulbs are Daffodils and Jonquils. Partly because they are self-governing in the garden, you can plant them and they just do their thing! In several years you will have multiple times the amount you originally purchased, and they are a cheery sign that the season is about to change! However, it is also worth remembering that their other name is Narcissus. In Greek mythology, Narcissus is the guy who fell in love with his own reflection. As humans, we are very easily persuaded to look at ourselves and our outside circumstances and decide that is all there is to see. It is too easy to forget that there are other things going on – particularly when those things creep up on us like winter creeps up. Autumn is beautiful and enjoyable and there is a harvest in Autumn to keep us busy, and there is yummy food and the beginning of things from Winter that are still a novelty – bonfires, hot chocolate, wood smoke, other things that evoke pleasant memory.
If you find yourself in a winter season, or if you think you are in one now, I really hope that my discovery of my own winter season is an encouragement for you. Those few little words from Father helped put a path under my feet. I hope they may also be useful for others!
God Bless You Very Much!